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85-Year-Old Is The Oldest Person To Climb Kilimanjaro

Mark Whitman

Dr Robert J Wheeler, aged 85 years and 201 days, has recently become the oldest person to climb Kilimanjaro in northeastern Tanzania on 2 October 2014.

Update: Dr Wheeler’s record has now been broken a few times. First in October 2015 by Angela Vorobeva (aged 86 years 267 days), then by Dr Fred Distelhorst in 2017 (aged 87), and finally by Anne Lorimor (aged 89), who is currently the oldest person to summit Kilimanjaro.

At 19,341 feet, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa. In contrast to most people, Wheeler probably prefers to round his age up. Wheeler proclaimed, “I wanted to demonstrate that older people can remain active despite health problems.” He certainly did that. Guinness World Records has now acknowledged the deed.

Wheeler was accompanied by his son, William, who is known as Jack. The expedition commenced with a three-day, 20-mile hike via the Marangu route, which is the most popular, to a base camp 15,500 feet up Kili. Two days were spent acclimatising before the nine-hour climb to the summit – what Wheeler called “the tough part.”

Wheeler had previously climbed Japan’s Mount Fuji (12,388 feet) and Argentina’s Mount Aconcagua (22,837 feet), the highest peak outside of Asia.

Wheeler, who hails from Webster Groves in Missouri, found this latest jaunt to be the hardest thing he had ever accomplished due to his age. He previously served in the army, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel, and as a professor of psychology at Saint Louis University. He has three children.

The trip was organised by Adventures within Reach of Boulder, Colorado, whose owner described Wheeler as “an inspiration … to all of us.”

He saluted Wheeler for proving that with determination, people of any age can “put one foot in front of the other.” Wheeler returned the compliment: “Our guides did a great job, making it possible for us to summit.” Adventures within Reach, which specialises in customised and affordable adventures, also supported the previously oldest person to climb Kili, Dick Byerly.

Wheeler has written a book, Mountains and Minds, which details his climbing experiences, interspersed with detail of research into why people pursue arduous tasks such as mountain climbing. His Kilimanjaro experience will make for an interesting new chapter in the second edition.

Mark Whitman

Hi, I'm Mark! Welcome to Climb Kilimanjaro Guide - the Web's No.1 Trekking Guide to Mount Kilimanjaro. This site is your one stop shop for everything Kilimanjaro. To date over 5 million people have visited Climb Kilimanjaro Guide, many of which have gone on to summit Kili! I hope you find all the answers you are looking for, but if you have any questions don't hesitate to drop a comment below!

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  1. Hi
    In April 2016 my age will be 87 and 3 month, and I want try to climb to the top of month Kilimanjro.
    10 years ago I did it. I believe I can do it again,
    What can I do to prove the Guinnest Book of Records, that I succeeded to do it?
    Shlomo Raphaeli
    My email is [email protected]

  2. Bonjour, j’écris un article pour une revue québécoise et j’aurais quelques questions pour vous concernant l’ascension du kilimandjaro. 🙂

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